$490 …

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So I’d been dreading today for quite a while.

It was court day. Meaning I would finally face the judge over my $490 ticket from four months ago. I blogged about this at the time, but since you probably don’t remember here’s a quick recap: I was driving on I-5 south, returning from a day at Knott’s Berry Farm with my two kids and my daughter’s pal. Because traffic was backed up, I jumped into the HOV lane and cruised for a while. Then, suddenly, the HOV lane slowed. I was frustrated, so I returned to the regular lane—crossing a double yellow line in the process.

Police car pulled up behind me.

Police officer got out.

Police officer wrote me a ticket.

For $490.

Suddenly, in my mind, the story started to change. That guy behind me was driving too close. I worried for the kids’ safety. I only jumped the lines because I was scared the dude would bump my car. On and on and on—I built this up in my brain; constructed a narrative of what happened, and sorta kinda began to believe it.

Then, today, I sat there. In court. A woman asked us all to stand, raise our right hands and swear to tell only the truth. I swore to tell only the truth. But what was the truth? Had there been an erratic lunatic on my tail? Did I make that move to protect the kids? Or was I just a guy in a rush, now pissed over a large penalty? Deep down, I knew what was, and what wasn’t. But … $490. But … truth. But … $490. But  … truth. Crap, crap, crap, crap.

The judge spoke. “If I read your name, the officer in your case has not shown up, and you’re free to walk without any penalty or fine …”


“Ben Abraham …”


“John Balzinski …”


“Julie Cohen …”

Friggin’ heck.

“Jeff …”


“… Pearlman.”

I can’t explain the happiness. It lasted the entire day, and still lingers.

No lie. No fine. And the knowledge to never cross that line again.